Three weeks on from Labor’s election victory and it is possible to see some threads that have woven together to spell bad news for the Coalition. Albanese and his team fell over the line, thanks to preferences from Greens and some unsuccessful independents, not in any ringing endorsement of their policies or personalities, but out of disgust with what the Morrison government had become. My own hope is this presages a government like Jacinda Adern’s, a measured, compassionate rule where the nation sees a better future and is led toward it.
For Peter Dutton and the other warmed up leftovers in the Liberal party, I think the message is simple. Morrison and his cabinet ran a country based on flimsy marketing – a government of sound bites and announcements, where the reality could be whatever the Prime Minister asserted, at least for the length of a press conference. But the real reality, the reality faced by people in their day to day lives became further and further from what Morrison and co were painting. When the government prioritises religious laws over the actual challenges facing the country, when they concoct a controversy about trans people in sport, or that wages rises will harm the ‘economy’, that we don’t need to worry about climate change, that COVID could be addressed as anything but urgent. People didn’t have to look far to see the falseness in these positions.
And so a government that felt it could win an election if it defined the battleground to suit itself was routed by the reality of the war that played out not to its choosing but under the light of real experience.
The last bit to consider is the future of the Liberals. While no fan of their breed, a strong opposition makes for an honest government, so at least competence is desirable. But the remainder table Liberals seem to have learned nothing. Fake solutions like nuclear energy to counter an immediate crisis in fossil fuel costs, foolishness to antagonise China and the Pacific for perceived domestic political gain, and a denial that there should be accountability and a brake on corruption in Canberra continue to be their position. A position in denial of reality.
I’ll say it quietly, as I don’t mind in the least if the blowhards of the right destabilise the LNP for a couple of terms of government, but while they pursue policies that align with their dogma, but deny reality, they will fail. In America, reality has been set aside by a president prepared to destroy the place to retain power, or to address a slight, and replaced by a weak moderate with no vision to lead. With a compliant media and inherent corruption, there is nothing to cause the wake up to reality that country needs until things become much worse. But seeking to repeat this in Australia has been rejected, blessedly, and is a path to nowhere for the right. Eventually, they will regroup around the traditional conservative values of individual responsibility, low taxes, small government, balanced budgets and solid defence. But to get there, they will have to leave a position that inserts itself in people’s religion, bedrooms and health choices. For a lot of the scraps left after the election, who have pursued politics for power and personal wealth and glory, this reset to core values will be meaningless and a bridge too far.
In 1995 my flatmate was at Harvey Norman to get Win95 on release day. Anybody who used Windows 3.1 will know why. But a quarter century later and Windows releases are more about introducing new nuisances than anything anybody would look forward to with anticipation.
For the last few days I’ve been using a Windows 11 Pro machine. It isn’t great.
It isn’t BAD. It is just a nothing burger with more annoyances and no benefits.
It is reliable, no crashes. Which is great, but has generally been true of Windows for a couple of decades.
Like evey windows before, it takes a bit of configuration to set up the way you want. Where is the Start menu to be located, what it shows, what is on the desktop.
I can live with this, if two things are true.
If the little interface changes between versions happen, at least make them somewhat useful.
And let me undo the dumb little interface changes.
Win 11 fails here, and even 6 months after release it just isn’t suitable for upgrade unless you have some compelling reason. Some examples of where the Windows product managers have tried to justify their salaries by chopping and changing the interface?
the start button is centred. Amazing. I guess this is useful for right handers on a Surface? Surface is 5% of MS revenue, and I guess, less than 1% of profits. Not really something to design your operating system usability around. At least you can select where to put it, like for the last 27 years.
The option to ungroup windows on the taskbar is unavailable. I don’t know any above average Windows users who don’t ungroup windows. I suppose there must be some? I presume the snooping metrics show a huge percentage of users retain grouped windows since they were turned on by default (in Win7?) – I’m sure my 80yro Dad doesn’t know how to turn it off. And he doesn’t know how to turn off the snooping user metrics. So naive users preferences have an overweight impact. Of course, if the default switched to ungrouped windows, these users would leave that untouched too. MS product group would be amazed that so many users agreed their change was so perfect.
I have a reasonable size monitor, 27inches. Plenty have bigger, and 24inch is the very basic issue these days. But for some reason, I get tiny little taskbar icons, grouped to allow 80% of the taskbar to be empty. Thanks? I love that empty grey bar.
The Settings panel seems to have had the usual shuffling of where everything is located. Why? Nobody knows. I’m sure there is a Powerpoint deck explaining why these changes will deliver 3% productivity improvements for first time PC users, or some other silly metric.
The Start menu shows a rotating view of recent apps and some pinned apps. With an extra click I can have All Apps listed. I’d really like to stop that extra click. I use the computer enough to memorise the order of the app menu, so a variable menu slows me down. There is no option to change this. Again, I don’t know why it would be desirable to make software less personalisable.
There are other little irritations, like the efforts it makes to force live.com accounts, and the way the interface chrome changes to random past versions if you access a feature not blessed with the latest skin. Is it truly OK to ship a new version of Windows with a UI slapped onto only some parts of the OS? When Win8 came out with the silly metro touch stuff there was at least the excuse that Redmond was scared and lost their heads. Why do some apps still look like Vista in 2022? How unfair, at least it is flat now.
Anyway, it seems like the Windows team has concluded they no longer need to consider power users, they can use power shell, or download 3rd party utilities to make the software work productively.
The bad news for them is they are shipping software that nobody wants. Who would upgrade from Windows 10 if it was kept in support? If the only market for your software left is corporates who are forced to upgrade to stay in support, and home users who get a new version every 5 years when they buy a new Dell, well, what are you doing with your life?
And a couple of days after complaining about this, LEah Lundqvist on Twitter does it far more elegantly:
It was no monumental insight to recognise peer to peer markets were unlocked by the Internet. Though I guess I could have been a billionaire if I had VC backing to build a lot of the ideas that plopped out during the dot-com boom, that actually became the Uber and AirBnB and Fiverr of the current bubble (is there a nice name for it except FAANG? Iâ€™ll admit Iâ€™m less interested than I used to be).
But if you are like me and the interest is in getting a cheap product or service, things have changed. There are still some bargains to be had – we all get cheap travel thanks to Uber subsidising a car ride to use their monopoly market position and stock price to undercut a taxi – which is a very obvious game to capture market before they ramp up prices (or maybe destroy driver pay, or both!)
But this isnâ€™t a message about fucked up markets, but a reflection on old market distortions.
In this case. ebay.
Everyone uses ebay, right? I guess the combination of predatory service fees and attempts to vertically integrate sales and payment turned a lot of people off- gumtree and facebook market place have certainly killed their classified business, but they used to be the only game in town for selling unique stuff, and I think they still are for some stuff.
I always used ebay as the market value for an item, but in the last years of the 20th century, and early 21st, ebay was very subject to the reduced market around public holidays. Sellers in the USA, especially used to list items on 7 day auction that closed on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, with the result we could buy stuff for an impressive discount, while the USA was offline.
It doesnâ€™t work anymore, sadly, I guess because sellers have their phones nearby, but I will always remember fondly snatching auctions when the USA was busy – one of the few benefits from being in the wrong time zone.
The alarming information from South Africa about a substantially more contagious variant of COVID is bumping up against very human disaster fatigue.
There is a bunch of wishing that the new variant is less dangerous, and it is possible it will be found to be - but the most likely is that the virulence is unchanged, or not dramatically changed.
There is also a lot of wishing the vaccines remain effective. Again, itâ€™s unknown, but the substantial number of mutations make it seem very possible immunity will be weakened.
Some estimates of R(t) in SA are 1.2 for Delta and >3 for Omicron. This implies that the public health controls in place produce a result similar to when COVID was first circulating, with zero controls - and the concern was for overwhelmed healthcare.
If the new variant is equivalently virulent, but much more contageous, the risk of over whelming health resources is real, even in highly vaccinated populations, as even a small percentage of the population ill at the same time could easily be a disaster. Note this remains true even if the disease in the variant is less severe. A halved virulance but quadrupled infection rate is still doubled hospitalisation, and more as the case numbers grow exponentially.
There are some clues that natural immunity from a prior infection is less effective against this variant. This would be very bad in areas which have already suffered from earlier waves.
There are some hopes the hospitalisation rate is lower. Unfortunately, there is also an indication that many of the early cases in hospital were there for other reasons. If you go to hospital with a broken leg and flu symptoms it seems quite predictable that you will leave earlier than somebody hospitalised because the flu symptons have progressed to serious respiratory illness. I think in the weeks to come as the stats about Omicron become dominated by those hospitalised as a result of the disease, we'll be better able to judge the seriousness of the illness.
In Australia, where we have, until a month ago, quarantined international arrivals, we have an opportunity to halt Omicron until the data on the variant is confirmed. Unfortunately, politicians are primed to hear the best news for themselves, so we are still accepting international travellers with a few days self isolation at home. We should note the NSW health minister admitted the self isolation was being frequently ignored.
I hope the new variant isn't terrbily contagious, but all evidence to date is that it is.
I hope the new variant doesn't evade immunity or vaccine immunity. There is very little evidence to date, though some clues reinfections are increased.
I hope the new variant is incredibly mild, and it 'chases out' previous dominant strains. There is no reliable evidence at all that this is the case, just hopes in my opinion.
I hope that a tailored booster vaccine could be developed swiftly. I have seen comments saying a couple of months is possible. I don't know if this is realistic, but with limited other options, we may depend on it.
I hope that the combination of extreme contagion, immunity escape and similar virulence don't lead to much death, a return to lock downs and the disruptions the world experienced last time a deadly disease infected many people - just last year.
But it looks like a real risk.
Our leaders should have reacted in a precautionary way, instead of waiting for the data to be in on whether the new variant is stronger/weaker or more/less contagious. But they failed to do so, so we are at the mercy of luck.
I'd say it will be clear in the days between Xmas and New Year whether we were lucky or not, so take care around vulnerable people and cross your fingers the politicians are right. And try not to make any plans for 2022 that a pandemic might ruin!